KQED Arts bloggers Amanda Roscoe Mayo and Sarah Hotchkiss are covering this year's Noise Pop festival two days at a time. Check back to A Noise Pop 2013 Wish List to see their picks for the six days of concerts, film, and art events. And stay tuned on Saturday, March 2 for the next installment: Days Three & Four.
DAY ONE: Tuesday, February 26
Body/Head (featuring Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth and Bill Nace), Horsebladder, Burmese, Noel Von Harmonson
Noise Pop Music Fest 2013 is in full swing, kicking things off with a noisy bang on Tuesday night at Rickshaw Stop with Body/Head, Horsebladder, Burmese, and Noel Von Harmonson. The basic play-by-play of night one was this: Burmese melted everyone's faces off. Their lead vocalist manifested growls from a place I can only imagine most metalheads dream of reaching.
It was incredibly refreshing to see the Bay Area underground metal scene take over the Rickshaw for 30 minutes or so, until Horsebladder came on. Ever wonder where your teenage angst went? Elaine Kahn has it. She has gathered the entire world's angst, and as angsty girls do, turned everyone against her. Her music was flat, loops captured from lackadaisical moments on a tambourine struck by what looked like a medieval torture tool failed to be dynamic. Keyboard didn't help.
I always wondered what it would be like to reenact a scene from Carrie in real life. At one point Kahn released a stare so violent and intense I turned around expecting to see the balcony at Rickshaw engulfed in flames. Once her set was over and I had cased all the nearest exits, just in case, it was time to regroup for Body/Head.
I was skeptical of Kim Gordon's new project with Bill Nace. All I knew prior to the show was to expect noise broken up only by mostly random, unidentifiable, utterances from Gordon. This rumor was completely accurate, and while noise is not a genre I'm well versed in, I can appreciate when the musicians are accomplishing what they hope to achieve with their sound. Body/Head didn't find that sweet spot until the end of their set, but there were also moments we were reminded we were witnessing a living legend nowhere near past her prime. Gordon gave us a show, climbing on the amps, dangling her bass for feedback, edging into the audience, singing calculated verses into the mic. There were no songs, just noise.
DAY TWO: Wednesday, February 27
Turning, a music documentary featuring Antony & the Johnsons
For my first stop of the night, I scooted into the Roxie to see Turning, the music documentary on the ladies of Antony's (of Antony and the Johnsons) live show. When Antony toured in Europe, one woman stood on stage for each song. These transgendered or gay women dressed themselves in the garb in which they felt the most beautiful, assuming statuesque poses atop a slowly rotating platform. The film, like Antony's music, was melancholic at times, but carried a message of hope. Making this struggle visible and accessible, Antony proved himself once again a true artist through and through.
The Fresh & Onlys, R. Stevie Moore, Plateaus, Burnt Ones
While day one of Noise Pop brought the "noise", day two brought the "pop". I got to Bottom of the Hill just in time for the last half of Plateaus' set. Turning had me in a contemplative mind set, and I wondered if I could handle seeing a live show after spending over an hour with Antony's beautiful music. I was pleasantly surprised by Plateaus' beachy punk-rock.
The popular phrase 'ignorance is bliss' is applicable here. I had no idea my life was missing this band. Their sound is familiar, pulling from '50s California rock and elemental garage-punk, but smart. Really smart. They don't take themselves too seriously, it seems, but have the talent and focus necessary to be make great, laid-back music.
R. Stevie Moore
It doesn't get much more punk rock than R. Stevie Moore. Backed by musicians less than half his age, Moore embodied every aspect of original punk I like to see. Taking the stage, his white beard dyed blue, there was no doubt of his status. "Where my bitches at?!" And we were off on a wild ride through Moore's heavily reverberating bass lines, strong drums, and wavy guitar chords. There was a fair amount of cane waving, rolling around on stage, and seriousness broken by Moore's own laughter. The audience was delighted -- cameras and iPhones were constantly in the air trying to anticipate and capture his next move.
The Fresh & Onlys
There's something intrinsically San Francisco about The Fresh & Onlys' sound. It's a little bit messy, a little bit garage-rock, a little bit punk, all wrapped up in psych-pop. They charmed me. Lead singer Tim Cohen called the audience out halfway through the set, "Why is everyone standing there watching us?" Finally! Let's move around a little, indie scene! Wednesday night's bill at Bottom of the Hill deserved such a response. Let's take Cohen's cue and come back to the land of the living, San Francisco. There's no time like the Noise Pop present.
Noise Pop runs through March 3, 2013. For the full schedule of upcoming events visit schedule.noisepop.com.
All photos by Amanda Roscoe Mayo.